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Merry Second Day of Christmas (St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day in the UK)


Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
Staff member
Premium Member
Wishing my fellow Christians a very merry second day of Christmas!! :glomp:

And happy St. Stephen's Day and Boxing Day to the rest of y'all, including the secular celebrants. “On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." I hope everyone is relaxing and gorging upon delicious festive leftovers before the New Year comes and we get stuffed and tipsy all over again.

We've all heard about the Twelve Days of Christmas, thanks I'm sure to the carol: everything from “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” to “Ten Lords a Leaping”.

Some people believe that this popular Christmas carol was first written down in England - as a “Catechism song” to aid young Catholics in learning the basics of their faith in a secret, coded manner during the seventeenth century Wars of Religion, when the public and private practice of Catholicism was prohibited under the penal and recusancy laws (during the period between 1558 - 1829, when it was illegal throughout the British Isles to be openly Catholic).

For the majority of traditional Christians, in those churches claiming apostolic succession and with an ordained clergy, the festival of Christmas is a 'solemnity' (holy day of obligation) that lasts for Twelve Days culminating in Twelfth Night / Epiphany (January 6th) which commemorates the arrival of the Magi from Persia, who had followed the star of Bethlehem and became the first witnesses of the manifestation of the Son of God to the Gentiles.

Solemnities are festive and exceptional days, the highest ranked feasts of the liturgical calendar marked with special characteristics:

11. Solemnities are counted as the principal days in the calendar and their observance begins with Evening Prayer of the preceding day. Some also have their own vigil Mass for use when Mass is celebrated in the evening of the preceding day.

The celebration of Easter and Christmas, the two greatest solemnities, continues for eight days, with each octave governed by its own rules
. (General Norms of the Liturgical Calendar)

Octave means an eight-day celebration, that is, the prolongation of a feast to the eighth day (dies octava) inclusive. The feast itself is considered the first day, and it is followed by six days called “days within the octave.” The eighth or octave day is kept with greater solemnity than the “days within the octave” (With Christ Through the Year, Bernard Strasser, 1947, p. 39).​

Today is the second day of the Christmas solemnity, the Octave Day of which (for Catholics the most important day of the solemnity of Christmas, as well as the last feasting one) falls, as ever, on secular New Year's Day - January 1st (also World Day of Prayer for Peace and the Solemnity of Mary as Mother of God in the Catholic Church) according to the Gregorian Calendar.

From Christmas Day until January 1st, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is the Octave Day of Christmas. The Liturgy indicates that every day within the octave is treated the same as the original feast day of the Nativity of our Lord.

After the Octave Day of Christmas on January 1st, the Church continues the Christmas season known as Christmastide till Epiphany on the 6th January (when Christmas tree and decorations are finally taken down), but not the actual solemnity of Christmas which ended on the Octave.

Catholics are thus encouraged by our church tradition to 'feast' for all eight days of the Twelve, since the days falling within the Octave of Christmas are the feasting days of the holiday - the actual 'holiday' of Christmas repeated consecutively eight times over.

Only three Christian holidays are sufficiently sacred to have been 'stretched' out into an Octave of eight celebratory days - Christmas (the birthday of Jesus), Easter (the resurrection of Jesus following his passion and Holy Week) and Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the 'birthday' of the Church).

Now for a seasonally appropriate carol:

"Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel."
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Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
Staff member
Premium Member
As to the reason why Catholics and other traditional Christians in the West celebrate the holiest solemnities across eight feasting days, rather than just one day ('Christmas Day' in the secular world), consider:

In the spirit of the Church the great feasts of redemption should not be restricted to a single celebration but should continue on through a full week. Mother Church is good psychologist; she understands human nature perfectly.

When a feast comes, the soul is amazed and not quite prepared to think profoundly upon its mystery; but on the following days the mind finds it easy to consider the mystery from all sides, sympathetically and deeply; and an eighth day affords a wonderful opportunity to make a synthesis of all points covered.

...On the eighth day of Christmas, for the last time, the Church leads us to the crib at Bethlehem
(The Church’s Year of Grace, Volume I, pp. 244-245).

Octave (from the Latin octo, eight; octava dies, the eighth day) is used to signify both a period of eight days and the eighth day of that period.

This liturgical use conforms to the musical denomination of an octave as the eighth note in a diatonic sequence and also as the whole compass of notes comprised between the first and the eighth (including both extremes) in a diatonic scale.

In one sense, then, the octave of Christmas is the feast of the Circumcision, or New Year’s Day. In another sense, it is the whole period within these feasts, inclusive of both.

An octave continues the celebration of a feast for eight days. The eighth day, however, whilst of inferior liturgical important to the feast-day itself, is nevertheless of higher important than any of the preceding six days.

Here, again, there is almost a symbolic correspondence with the musical use of the word; for the eighth note, while not possessing the basic value of the first, still is considered as repeating it, for it merges with the first in physical vibration, sounds like it, and bears its name
(Catholic Customs and Symbols, Hugh Henry, 1925, p. 203-204).

Pope St. Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultis from 1974:

5. The Christmas Season is a prolonged commemoration of the divine, virginal and salvific Motherhood of her whose “inviolate virginity brought the Saviour into the world”. In fact, on the Solemnity of the Birth of Christ the Church both adores the Saviour and venerates his glorious Mother.

On the Epiphany, when she celebrates the universal call to salvation, the Church contemplates the Blessed Virgin, the true Seat of Wisdom and true Mother of the King, who presents to the Wise Men for their adoration the Redeemer of all peoples (cf. Mt. 2:11).

On the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (the Sunday within the octave of Christmas) the Church meditates with profound reverence upon the holy life led in the house at Nazareth by Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, Mary his Mother, and Joseph the just man (cf. Mt. 1:19).

In the revised ordering of the Christmas period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God. This celebration, placed on January 1 in conformity with the ancient indication of the liturgy of the City of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother...through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author of Life”.

It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration to the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the Angels (cf. Lk 2:14): and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace....
(Marialis Cultis, St. Pope Paul VI).